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4 simple but awesome ways a mom uses old crayons to improve the world.

The Crayon Collection shows the world how valuable used crayons can be to the lives of children.

4 simple but awesome ways a mom uses old crayons to improve the world.

While most parents notice how picky their 2-year-olds are when it comes to restaurant food, one mom noticed how picky her toddler was with something else.

Whenever Sheila Morovati took her daughter to eat at restaurants, she discovered an odd trend. Like most 2-year-olds, her little one would hardly use the crayons given to her before moving onto something else.

"After one or two lines drawn, the crayons would fall to the floor or get pushed to the other side of the table," Sheila told me. "The other parents with young kids experienced the same thing."


If you visit any kid-friendly restaurants, crayons on the floor will be a common sight.

But that's only part of the story. These virtually unused crayons would be placed in the trash, never to be seen again. Sheila wasn't feeling that at all. 

"Crayons are valuable," Sheila said. "I know that many students and teachers would yearn for them."

On top of that, teachers have to shell out what little money they have to buy school supplies, and wasted crayons are just another unnecessary item taking up space in landfills. 

That's all of the inspiration Sheila needed to create the Crayon Collection

"Simply put, the Crayon Collection collects lightly used crayons and redistributes them to teachers and throughout the community," Sheila said.

But this is no smalltime endeavor. The organization is currently in five countries, along with hundreds of restaurants and schools worldwide.

One of the thousands of gift boxes the Crayon Collection donates to schools every year. Photo from Sheila Morovati, used with permission.

That's wonderful and all, but you may be thinking, "Wait a minute ... this seems familiar. Isn't there already something like this out there?" 

Another organization called the Crayon Initiative does a whole lot of good by donating crayons to children in hospitals, but the Crayon Collection is a different animal altogether. 

Here are four things that make this organization so cool.

1. They get crayons in the hands of young kids at schools.

Sheila's organization partners with the National Head Start Association to provide crayons to 1 million of America's most vulnerable children.

"There are thousands of Head Start schools in our nation, and sadly many of the children don't have much more than the clothes on their backs," Sheila said. The Crayon Collection provides these children with crayons so they can use them at school or at home. 

This little boy was fascinated by twistable crayons, so Sheila showed him how they work. Photo from Sheila Morovati, used with permission.

2. They partner with big restaurant chains to ensure no crayon goes to waste.

Denny's restaurant is one of the biggest chains that the Crayon Collection partners with. Sheila's team gives Denny's employees information on how to properly handle the crayons so nearby schools can pick them up easily. 

"Denny's participation is truly inspiring and motivating," Sheila said. "We hope that the program will be adopted in other kid-friendly restaurants everywhere." 

3. They show kids that giving is better than receiving.

This is one of Sheila's favorite aspects of her program. For example, she has a group of children in California who visit some of the state's highest-poverty schools to donate crayons. 

"We teach kids in better-served communities a wonderful lesson in philanthropy, and they love it." 

A group of young kids in Santa Monica, California, collect and organize crayons to deliver to kids in need. Photo from Sheila Morovati, used with permission.

She isn't kidding. Studies have shown that children who give to others are generally happier.

Contrary to popular belief, kids actually enjoy giving to others. GIF from the Crayon Collection.

4. They created a crayon curriculum without any additional cost to the school districts.

Thanks to a suggestion from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Crayon Collection started a "crayon curriculum" for all recipient schools — and it doesn't cost the schools a dime. 

A crayon curriculum that doesn't cost schools anything? That's a win-win. Photo by Sheila Morovati, used with permission.

"Local artists have provided amazing ideas for projects so that the crayons can be used a tool for deeper learning," Sheila said.

For example, an artist named Annie Lapin created a project where kids circle a specific capital letter in a newspaper (S, for example, in the image below) and draw lines to connect each one. Afterward, the kids will color the image and create an animal. 

What a creative way for kids to use crayons!

Kids love crayons. The Crayon Collection ensures as many kids as possible can get some.

Sheila offered a few parting words on why this program means so much to her:

"We really feel that the scalability of our model is why we have been able to work with people from all over the world and create so much happiness and joy for kids who really need a little color in their lives."

And nothing is more colorful than the smiles of happy children. 

Color + kids = happiness. GIF from Crayon Connection, used with permission.

Be sure to check out the Crayon Collection's website to learn how you can be a part of the action!

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
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It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.

You may never have heard of President and CEO of the Black Women's Health Imperative (BWHI) Linda Goler Blount, but for over 25 years, she's been doing the arduous and yet vital work of assuring that Black women achieve health equity and reproductive justice.

Sometimes working behind the scenes securing funding, and other times in front of the cameras or on Capitol Hill fighting what can feel like a Sisyphean feat to move her organization forward in its mission. Blount is resolute in her battle against two of the greatest risk factors to the health of Black women are racism and gender discrimination.

UP: What are some of the biggest challenges facing Black women today -- vaccine hesitancy, preventative health, maternal mortality, diet, stress… etc?

LB: Stress is the number one health issue for Black women. Obesity-related syndromes such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease have their roots in stress -- and microaggressions trigger stress. We know there's a causal relationship between stress and weight. Black women have about 15% more cortisol in their bloodstream than white women. It changes their metabolism. If you give Black women and white women the same low-fat diet, Black women will lose weight more slowly and if both groups eat a high-fat diet, Black women will gain weight more quickly. We can see this in the DNA level. So, we focus our programs on asking women how they feel about being a Black woman in this environment at this moment. Because if we don't understand that and more importantly, if providers, policymakers, and corporate leaders don't understand that, then we're not going to make the kind of progress we need to improve health outcomes for Black women. And equity is a long way off.


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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!